“If you have tinsel on the brain and mulled wine in your blood, this is the podcast for you.”
You may have noticed that it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas, and is there a more enticing podcast description at this time of year than this? Welcome to Bah Humbug: A Christmas Movie Podcast. I had a talk with host, Helen O’Hara, about the podcast, the importance of Christmas films and the best movie Santas of all time…
It may be fairly obvious as to what this podcast is all about, but where did the idea come from?
I have a horrible weakness for a terrible Christmas movie as well as the good sort, so when I sat down this year to watch the first of the new crop on Netflix (Operation Christmas Drop, god help us) I wondered if enough people were talking about them: what makes them work, what doesn’t work, and how important it is for them to be good anyway… But while I wanted to talk about the slightly rubbish ones, I also thought it was important to have something good in there too, so it wouldn’t be all irony and snark. I mean, that wouldn’t be very Christmassy. Hence the premise of the podcast: I find some dubious thematic connection between these new films and some older favourites.
It has undoubtedly been a challenging year, so how important are Christmas films? Do they really provide nostalgia and comfort or is it all a bit more cliched and bah humbug?
There is a desperate need for Christmas movies in 2020. If anything is going to get us through these last few months before Dolly Parton’s vaccine arrives, it’s going to be goodwill towards men – and these films are full of that. They’re also full of nostalgia, yes, and the comfort of stories we have heard a thousand times. But there’s also a wish fulfilment aspect this year of all years: it’s gorgeous to see people gathered together in large groups, even if we can’t do the same.
Everyone has their list, the naughty list of tawdry Christmas films, but also the premier league tier of comfort blanket films. What would Helen’s list look like?
Call me an old fuddy duddy but there’s nothing to beat It’s A Wonderful Life. Of course I love Die Hard, we all love Die Hard, but it’s not quite as Christmassy so it loses a few points there. And then all the classics: Elf, Muppet Christmas Carol, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Santa Claus: The Movie, Lethal Weapon, you name it.
There must be a secret to a good Christmas film, the right mix of comfort, warmth, community and unity, so what are the ingredients needed to make a truly wonderful festive movie? And how much do we rely on the classic prose?
I think there ultimately needs to be some sort of positive message, whether that’s one about the importance of saving your estranged wife from terrorists at Nakatomi Plaza or the huge effect that one good man’s life can have on the small town of Bedford Falls. I think the best Christmas movies celebrate what we consider best in ourselves and each other: there’s a reason that A Christmas Carol, a story all about trying to be a better person, is the most reproduced story in the whole genre.
The conversations on Bah Humbug have proved eclectic. With Helen taking the lead, guests also provided some much needed yuletide commentary.
Honestly it has been a blast so far. We discussed wartime – and peacetime – military propaganda as it relates to the silly Netflix romance Operation Christmas Drop; what each generation’s conception of Santa Claus says about the sociological health of our society; whether Pottersville looks a teensy bit more fun than Bedford Falls; and whether it’s really possible for there to be three women who look so like Vanessa Hudgens that even their husbands can’t tell the difference.
It’s a burning question and one that needs consideration – who are your favourite Santas (is there a plural for Santa?) depicted on the screen?
There have been some great movie Santas: I have a lot of time for David Huddleston in Santa Claus: The Movie, James Cosmo in The Lion, The Witch And The Wardrobe, and of course the improbably attractive Santa played by Kurt Russell in The Christmas Chronicles. But the definitive movie Santa for me is Richard Attenborough’s version in the remake of Miracle On 34th Street. He is arguably the kindest of the bunch and certainly the most gentle. Maybe I just saw it at the right age, but I think he’s perfect. That said, I have a lot of time for Billy Bob Thornton’s Bad Santa too. Easily the funniest of the bunch.
Bah Humbug: A Christmas Movie Podcast with Helen O’Hara is produced by the good people at Stripped Media and is available on Acast and all good podcast platforms. Make sure you listen and add your own festive cheer to the proceedings.